There are a few arguments that could be put forward as to why the Republican Party decision to roll-back internet privacy in the USA. None of them really hold up to scrutiny, but there are arguments that can be made.
Unfortunately, no one seems to have shared these arguments with Wisconsin Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. His comments at a town hall meeting last Thursday have drawn widespread ridicule online but should be taken more seriously.
Because his staggering like of understanding about how the modern world works emphasises how dangerous it is to leave tech legislation in the hands of individuals who have little or no understanding of how it actually works and how it impacts everybody’s lives.
“Nobody’s got to use the Internet”
A town hall meeting is an opportunity for constituents to put questions to their own representatives and hold them to account over their decision-making. Over the Easter recess period, many representatives across the USA have been holding such meetings and many Republicans have been attacked over the online privacy vote.
The vote has proved wildly unpopular, with a recent survey showing that 72% of Republicans and Democrats opposed the new rules.
In Wisconsin, Representative Sensenbrenner was trying to outline the Republic Party argument that an ISP shouldn’t be subjected to stricter regulatory requirements than online websites and services such as Facebook.
In response, a constituent made the point that Facebook and ISPs are not comparable and that whilst using Facebook is a choice, people have no option but to use an ISP to get online.
Representative Sensenbrenner’s response was to say, “Nobody’s got to use the Internet,” before going on to say that it was his job to give people more choices.
A video of the Town Hall response was posted online by Brad Bainum, the Press Secretary for American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal political action group. In the tweet, he said that Representative Sensenbrenner had told constituents “not to use the internet if they don’t like his vote to sell out their privacy to advertisers.
The response of Representative Sensenbrenner was to say that “Actually, he said that nobody has to use the internet. They have a choice. Big difference.”
It is a quite staggeringly ignorant stance to take in the 21st century, as many online commentators have been quick to stress. In this day and age, people do have to use the internet. It is the platform for many people to work, communicate with loved ones, learn and educate themselves, and do countless day-to-day tasks such as paying bills and even looking for work.
Internet Freedom vote removes choice
And of course, the response fails to note the obvious fact that the removal of online privacy, far from giving American’s choice has actually removed it.
The FCC rules as they stood allowed internet users to decide whether they wanted ISPs to be able to make a profit from their personal data or not. Customers could opt in and allow ISPs to use their data if they so wished.
Now the Republican Party as removed that choice and forced US citizens to bow to the will of ISPs. And it seems their view is that if they don’t like it, they can stop using the internet.
But of course, they do have one choice left, and that is whether or not to use a VPN. A high quality and reliable VPN such as IPVanish or ExpressVPN will encrypt all of their online traffic and hide internet records from ISPs, allowing US citizens to make use of the myriad of vital online services Representative Sensenbrenner thinks they can do without, but not hand over their personal data to their ISPs.